BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Senate candidate Gary Chambers is making national headlines with his new ad. Pictured smoking a rolled blunt, he mentioned the estimated 7.3 million people who have been arrested for possession of marijuana since 2010 according to the ACLU.
Chambers is a candidate that comes with name recognition already and this move highlights the country and the state’s relationship with marijuana.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in Louisiana but recreational use is still illegal. In the 2021 legislative session, multiple marijuana bills looked to decriminalize and potentially legalize the drug.
“Looking at making sure that we can reduce if not eliminate incarceration as a potential punishment in many cases,” said Peter Robins-Brown, the Policy and Advocacy Director at Louisiana Progress.
Statistics collected in March of 2021 by JMC Analytics show 67% of the 1,160 Louisianans polled are in favor of decriminalizing and legalizing weed. This was reflected in a bill aimed to decriminalize possession of fewer than 14 grams, which was signed into law in July by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Chambers filmed his ad in New Orleans, where they have removed all penalties for small possession.
“I think a big part of this in the next couple of years is going to be having really honest conversations about the disproportionate impact on various communities that the current system has,” Robins-Brown said.
Louisiana Progress is working on a number of ideas to bring marijuana legislation back to the 2022 session. Last year the Sheriff’s Association played a big role in stopping a bill that would have led to legalization, stating it is still a Schedule 1 drug on the federal level and the state did not want to get in the middle of that debate.
“There does seem to be, I don’t know if broad agreement is the right word, sort of broad openness to further decriminalization,” Robin-Brown said.
The pre-filing for bills for the upcoming session opened Tuesday, but no marijuana bills have come in yet.
The Louisiana GOP and Senator John Kennedy did not immediately reply for comment on Chambers’ ad.